With three-quarters of the Verizon IndyCar Series season complete, it’s time for Charlie Kimball to shift his season into overdrive.
Although Kimball has no wins, poles or podium finishes, he’s still performed well overall in the first 12 races of the season, with two top-fives (Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis and Indianapolis 500) and six other top-10s.
The California native enters Sunday’s ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway in 10th place in the Verizon IndyCar Series standings.
In the three years that the series has raced there, Pocono has been a mixed bag for Kimball and the No. 83 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda.
He finished 12th in last year’s race and a career-worst 17th in 2014.
But on the flip side, and this is what Kimball hopes to replicate – or better – on Sunday, he finished runner-up in the first race there in 2013.
After his worst outing of the current season – 16th at Belle Isle 2 – Kimball has put together a good run of results since.
He was sixth at Road America, 10th at Iowa, 11th at Toronto and eighth almost three weeks ago at Mid-Ohio.
Kimball isn’t just knocking on the door for another top-five, he’s ready to kick that door down. And this weekend could not be a better time. While his 318 points have him ranked 10th in the standings, Kimball is only 39 points out of fifth place (currently occupied by Scott Dixon).
Another reason to add to Kimball’s optimism is last week’s open test at Pocono went very well for him and his team.
“We learned a lot testing at Pocono Raceway, mostly focusing on mechanical and aero changes so we have a good plan for the qualifying and race car setups when we return for the ABC Supply 500,” Kimball said. “If conditions were like they were during testing, I think there’s going to be a lot of talk about balance this weekend.
“As far as how the race strategy plays out, it’s anyone’s guess right now – we’ll have to wait and see if yellows play a big part or if we’re clean and fast.
“Even with a couple of test days, two off weekends seems like an eternity to be away from the track. I’m looking forward to going back for 500 miles on Sunday with the Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing Team.”
The focus of the Detroit Monster Energy Supercross round was on the mid-pack battle while Aaron Plessinger pulled away from the field, but when he crashed after hooking his foot in the dirt, the results once more looked like we’ve come to expect, with Chase Sexton, Cooper Webb and Eli Tomac sharing the podium for the fifth time in 10 rounds.
For Sexton, Plessinger’s late-race crash was a vindication of sorts. Several times already this season, Sexton has crashed while battling for the lead and the points that has cost him keeps him sporting the red plate. He lost points in Detroit for a different reason, however.
Sexton was allowed to keep the win, but was penalized seven points for jumping in a red cross section of the course. As a result, he dropped four points to Webb and two to Tomac. Sexton is now 17 points behind Webb in the championship hunt.
One week after snatching the red plate from Tomac for the first time in 2023, Webb stretched his advantage by two. With his second-place finish, Webb holds a three-point lead over Tomac, which essentially means both riders control their fate in the coming weeks. Webb continues to have a sweep of the top five this season with his sixth consecutive podium.
Coming off his worst finish of the season, Tomac rebounded to finish third. His eighth-place result last week was partially attributed to a stiff neck that hindered him in traffic and he still suffered some of those same effects in Detroit. Before Plessinger’s crash, he was destined to be the only rider in the three-man title scrum to finish off the podium in Detroit.
It is surprising what one position can do for one’s confidence.
Justin Barcia scored his fourth top-five of the season. He was part of the exciting four-man battle that dominated the middle stages of the race before Sexton and Webb gained a little separation. Finishing less than three seconds behind Tomac, he kept that rider honest for the entire race.
Coming off his first win of the season, Ken Roczen finished fifth. It was his seventh top-five of the season and it elevated him to fifth in the standings.
Hunter Lawrence tied his brother Jett Lawrence with 10 wins each after another dominating ride in the Detroit Supercross race and the results in the points continue to widen. With his fifth win in six rounds and a worst finish of third, Lawrence now has a 35-point advantage over Nate Thrasher with four rounds remaining. Finishes of 14th or better in the final four mains will give him his first 250 championship.
Jett will have an opportunity to retake his wins’ lead as Supercross heads west for the next two rounds in Seattle and Glendale, Arizona.
Nate Thrasher earned his third second-place finish of the season with a gap of 7.6 seconds to Lawrence. He won the overall in Arlington earlier this season, but a 15th-place finish in the opening round in Houston and 10th in Daytona hurts his championship chances.
Haiden Deegan scored his second podium and fourth top-five in six rounds of his young career. On his way to that finish, he rode aggressively against his teammate Jordon Smith in the heat race. Fans are getting a glimpse of what his on-track personality might be.
Jeremy Martin continues to be the model of consistency. He has not finished worse than sixth or better than fourth in six rounds now and that has allowed him to close to within two points of third in the 250 East championship standings.
Max Anstie entered the race weekend second in the points, but a hard crash in heavy traffic early in the main forced him to retire after two laps. Earning only one point for the round, he plummeted to fifth in the standings.
The news was worse for Smith, who was dropped out of the top nine in his heat after the altercation with Deegan and failed to advance through the LCQ. In the last chance race, he stalled his engine and had to mount a determined charge. He got only as high as seventh in that race after crashing while attempting to make a pass on fourth-place Jack Chambers.